All in a Day’s Work: Tête-à-tête with Yashodhara Lal Sharma

How I Became a Farmer’s Wife’ is a book about rearing chickens, dairy and poultry farming. Having a corporate job in a metropolitan city, how did you get this idea for the book? How closely is it based on your own true story?

So, ‘How I Became a Farmer’s Wife’ isn’t really about rearing chickens, but yes, there is dairy farming in it. I got the inspiration for the book by living through the experience when my crazy husband decided to follow his passion and actually try his hand at dairy farming on land near Gurgaon! He surprised us all by renting the land, buying seven cows and seven calves and starting up operations — the rest is history — well, in the book, anyway!

Do you ever secretly imagine or wish to live the life of a farmer’s wife?

I am already living that life because my husband seems to have decided that farming is going to be a part of our lives in some shape or the other — no spoilers, of course, so I don’t want to say too much about it. We are not actually living on a farm, of course, but it was quite a rollercoaster ride going through the dairy farm experiment — the exposure to an entirely different life and set of challenges. But to answer your question — no, I never either imagined or wished to live that life! I am quite the city girl, although, I actually grew to love the interludes on the farm. That break from the chaotic craziness that our lives have become is quite a welcome one.

You began your writing journey as a blogger. How did the transition from blogger to author happen?

I had been blogging since 2007, and I never really thought I would end up writing so many books at the time. I had wanted to, of course, but it had been a hidden, secret desire. That changed in 2010 when I had a complicated second pregnancy and realised that life is really short, so may as well fill it up with what you really want to do. So, I sat and wrote my first book, ‘Just Married, Please Excuse’ and HarperCollins picked it up. Ever since, I have published many more with them as well as with Duckbill for a couple of children’s books too. Blogging still means a lot to me, although no one really seems to read blogs these days.. I don’t get much time for it, but I still somehow maintain it and hope to continue to do so.

How difficult is it to write humorous books?

It’s the only type I think I can write, so not difficult. Probably would be difficult to write something without humour! I think I just grew up reading books like these — the gentle humour of James Herriot, the wry observations of Gerald Durrell and more recently, the hilarious Bill Bryson. So, I think I am naturally attuned to writing humorous books based on real-life events. I’ve also tried my hand at fiction, but even there, there’s quite a bit of inspiration from life. I have reconciled to the fact that this is the only way I can write.

You’ve probably been asked this a hundred times already. Anyway, for the hundred-and-first time, as a full-time mom of three, marketing professional and Zumba instructor, just how do you balance all of these roles so seamlessly?

Hahahaha, you got that one right! But it’s ok, because the question is the same and I think my answer keeps changing. So, one thing is that each of these roles takes away energy, but they also add that back. The other is that I have given up aiming for perfectionism. I don’t aim to get to the top of any of these fields; I am just really happy to have these things in my life and to be able to continue to do so many of them even after I came back off a sabbatical to the world of full-time work. Oh, and the sabbatical was amazing in terms of getting myself trained to be a Zumba instructor, doing a lot of writing and so on. I don’t think my life would be the same today if I hadn’t taken that pause.

Tell our readers a little about your recent TedX talk on exploring one’s multidimensional self for a fuller life.

It was a lovely experience. I got a call from the Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management last year to deliver this talk. It was a lovely campus, the room was full of highly engaged students and the video turned out to be pretty great too. I worked hard to prepare this talk even though I was short on time, and it helped me to get clarity on a lot of things myself. However, to be completely honest, there are days when I am struggling with overload at work and I look at that video and think ‘Wow, what a fake…she really looks like she has it all together. Only I know the truth about how messed up she feels right now!’ 

Apart from this, you have also been learning the piano and the guitar. Tell us more about your family’s relationship with music.

Not many people know this, but I am the granddaughter of a very accomplished sitarist Jitendra Pratap Singh, who was also a longstanding contributor to writing about music as a critic. My grandmother too was naturally musical, so it runs on my mother’s side of the family. I learnt guitar from the time I was fifteen, but never was very good at it — I still am not. But I’m taking classes once a week and trying to stay connected to the instrument. The piano playing started a few years ago because my daughter was learning and I just decided to pick it up at the same school as her since I was there anyway. I haven’t made that much progress, but I recently managed my first ever piece called ‘Silver Inches’ and am inordinately proud of it! I think music is the perfect example for me, of pursuing something enjoyable without an end goal in mind. That’s really important, and besides, it helps me relax!

What are some of the books, authors you have been reading lately?

I’m much bigger on non-fiction than I am on fiction these days. I am trying to get through ‘Sapiens’, which I find fascinating, but hard to pick up once you put it down! And I have got ‘Irresistible’, which is hopefully going to help me go on my own digital detox soon. It talks about screens as addictions — something I know I have. Another book is ‘The Antidote’, which is kind of like an anti-self-help-book, and yet most helpful; along with ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’, another interesting one.

After your sixth book, what’s your next book going to be about?

My second kid’s book, based on my daughter, ‘Peanut Vs. The Piano’, will be published by Duckbill later this year. Further, my next novel, tentatively titled ‘The Last Summer Being Gudia’ will be published by HarperCollins in 2019. It’s a childhood memoir of sorts, but basically, a coming-of-age story set in the early 90s in Delhi about an awkward middle-class middle-kid trying to find her own space in the world. It’s very close to my heart, and I hope a wide variety of people — adults as well as children — pick it up, enjoy it and relate to it.